Marvel/DC Round-Up: Comics Released 2/17/16

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We got us a double-header! We try to stay up on what’s going on with the Big Two, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles released by  Marvel and DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Amazing Spider-Man 8, Batman and Robin Eternal 20, Power Man and Iron Fist 1, Silver Surfer 2, and Spider-Woman 4.

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Amazing Spider-Man 8

Amazing Spider-Man 8Spencer: Dan Slott and Matteo Buffagni’s Amazing Spider-Man 8 seems like it has something important to say about redemption, but I’m not sure it ever fully articulates its point. The story finds Spider-Man foiling Mr. Negative’s plot, freeing Cloak and Dagger from his thrall, and winning Lian back to his side after her traitorous alliance with Zodiac. These are all examples of successful redemptions, but I’m less sure about where Quinghao Shen stands — has his humanitarian efforts redeemed his past crimes, or should they still be held against him? Both options are voiced as Shen’s loaded into an ambulance, but Slott never makes it clear where the issue stands on Shen’s actions, or how they relate to the similar actions taken by many of the other characters throughout this storyline.

This is a more personal problem, but there’s one tiny aspect of this issue that bothered me enough to take me out of the story.

girlfriend

I read this issue three times this week, and every single time I read it the fact that Lian is Peter’s girlfriend took me by surprise — startled me, actually. I can vaguely remember it being mentioned in previous issues now, but so briefly that it made absolutely no impression on me. I have no problem with Lian and Peter dating, but if this little attention is going to be paid to it, I’d rather Slott not include the plot point at all. Thus far Peter and Lian’s relationship has been almost nonexistent and completely superfluous, lost within this bustling storyline and serving more to distract from the plot at hand than enhancing it.

Ultimately, that may be this issue’s greatest sin. It’s still a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable superhero romp, but in trying to both tell a story about Mr. Negative and set-up the next phase of the Zodiac storyline in a scant two issues, Slott may have bitten off just a tad bit more than he can chew.

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Batman and Robin Eternal 20

Batman and Robin Eternal 20Mark: Well, if anyone was wondering how Dick Grayson was going to leave his spy life behind and return to being Nightwing as part of DC’s Rebirth, we potentially have an answer in Somnus — Spyral’s giant orbiting satellite. Turns out Helena had Dr. Netz and Poppy modify Somnus to allow the world to forget Grayson was Nightwing, with both Dick and Helena holding half the password in their brains.

Last week I complained a little bit that the nature of a weekly comic sometimes means that we lose individual character voices, but Tim Seeley does a much better job this week of giving characters moments to shine. The issue is still incredibly plot heavy as we move into the final stretch of Eternal, but this is one of the better issues at balancing that forward momentum while still honoring the more emotional implications of the action.

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Power Man and Iron Fist 1

Power Man and Iron Fist 1Spencer: Luke Cage may be married, Danny Rand may have been in multiple relationships, but in the eyes of their fans (and of every other person in the Marvel universe), there’s no one they’re closer to than each other. That idea of partnership and family is the backbone of David Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist 1. It works on several levels, with the simplest (yet most amusing) being the interplay between Luke and Danny.

BFFs

Luke and Danny are classic best friends: they’re complete opposites who constantly (and hilariously) bicker, yet care about each other more than almost anything in the world. Even Danny’s concern about Luke’s wife liking him is a very relatable, genuine moment that sells the deepness of their friendship — Danny wants to be accepted in all parts of Luke’s life, and Luke’s not too “manly” to reassure him that he is.

These two heroes’ devotion to family also ends up backfiring on them, though. They assume that their former employee, Jennie, feels the same loyalty to them as they do to her, but that’s not true. Instead, Jennie turns their best quality against them, kickstarting the series’ entire plot. It’s an appropriate threat for these characters and a strong opening salvo for this series, although if I’m being honest, the charming characterization won me over long before we even go to this point. I’ll definitely be back next month to see what happens next.

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Silver Surfer 2

Silver Surfer 2Patrick: Norrin Radd isn’t a character that’s particularly easy to sympathize with. He has a set of powers, an array of senses, and a wealth of experiences that are simply unimaginable. Morality and mortality couldn’t possibly mean the same thing to him as they do to you or me, or any other person that has ever lived. Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s excellent Silver Surfer series has always side-stepped this issue by making normal human female, Dawn Greenwood, our perspective character. We experience the human drama of accompanying Norrin on all of his Doctor Wholy mind-bending adventures. Issue 2 attempts, and achieves, the impossible: Norrin earns the sympathy and empathy of the readers as he enacts a dance we all know too well — your girlfriend meeting your ex.

It’s not so trite as I’m making it out to be, but I do 100% believe that this issue works so well more because of the awkward girlfriend drama and less because of the Earth-assimilating threat from beyond the stars. Slott even starts real-time story in one of the more relatable situations we’ve seen the Surfer in: bored of hanging out with his girlfriend’s family. He groans at the smell of bacon and eggs for breakfast, but like the motherfucking weirdo alien that he is, he describes it as “seared pig and bird embryos.” His otherness is still totally in tact here, but with the added twist that everyone knows what he’s feeling. He wants to get back into space, doing the stuff he loves doing. I can’t spend more than a weekend with my girlfriend’s parents (or my own parents for that matter) without yearning to get back to my home routine. Ditto Norrin Rad. Then, when he can’t quite figure out how to contact the heroes of this newly reassembled Earth, the Surfer takes Dawn to see his old “friend” Alicia Masters, a.k.a. “another Earthgirl who’s traveled with the Silver Surfer.” It’s a delightfully awkward sequence, punctuated with my favorite visual gag in the whole issue: Dawn’s reflection in Toomie giving her a “what do you want me to say?” shrug.

eh whatareyougonnado

All of that leads into the biggest ex-girlfriend reveal since… shit, I guess I don’t know when. I may have just met Shalla Bal 20 pages ago, but the sense of history is so complete as to make that final page a true socks-blown-off moment. Juggling the three most important women in his life? Yeah, Norrin Radd might be more relatable than I’ve ever given him credit for.

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Spider-Woman 4

Spider-Woman 4Drew: Serialized fiction is full of baby delivery stories, but most let the idea of having a baby obscure the personality of the characters. Or maybe they just want to do cheap “mom is in pain/super emotional” jokes. Point is, there are a TON of stories about giving birth, but very few of them leave any room for the mother to actually be herself. Spider-Woman 4 manages to keep Jessica’s personality front-and-center, even as it finds her in a situation that puts all “delivering a baby under unusual circumstances” stories to shame.

Seriously, far from just birthing in a cab or elevator, Jessica is doing it under the gun, racing against a group of terrorists trying to break into the delivery room. This being Jessica, though, there’s no dispair, just a determination to get back on her feet as soon as possible. She does that to remarkable results, but not before pausing for an emotional moment to meet her son.

Close me up.

Artist Javier Rodriguez packs an insane amount of emotion into that page, nailing every single expression, but the most remarkable trick here is the pacing (which, unfortunately, is hard to capture in an excerpt). These two pages are preceded by a sixteen-panel grid, giving the three panels of close-ups and that almost continual montage a decidedly out-of-time quality. Few artists can pull off any of these pages (seriously, that sixteen-panel grid is absurdly legible), let alone all three of them, and the moment absolutely sings because of that pacing.

Actually, Rodriguez is on fire throughout the issue — every layout, expression, and action is clear and powerful — but I want to shine a little love on writer Dennis Hopeless, who definitely deserves praise for not letting Jessica get swallowed by the narrative. Too many pregnant women are turned into irritable props for birth stories, but Jessica’s personality pops on every page. Not only does that lend continuity to the series as a whole — it also keeps the humor and badassery going throughout the issue. Heck, she springs right back from emotionally overwhelmed new mother to badass within that killer montage. This might be the story of a birth, but it’s decidedly the story of Jessica Drew’s birth.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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4 comments on “Marvel/DC Round-Up: Comics Released 2/17/16

  1. “I read this issue three times this week, and every single time I read it the fact that Lian is Peter’s girlfriend took me by surprise — startled me, actually.”

    I’m a pretty big Spider-Man fan. I own literally over 1500 Spider-Man comic books, I am wearing Spider-Man socks and underwear today, I have a Spider-Man lunchbox and a Spider-Man satchel, I have dvd sets of the original cartoon, the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, I own all of the movies (Tobye Maquire’s SpiderMan 1 and 2 and Garfield’s 1 and 2), I dress up as Spider-Man for Halloween, I read the offshoot characters like Ultimate pete and Miles and Scarlet Spider and Miguel and Spider-Woman (Spider-Gwen still sucks, though). I used to hang out in the woods playing with spiders trying to get one to bite me. I looked for the ones with extra legs or weird bumps or fangs, because they were more likely to be mutated (of course).

    But if you asked me last Tuesday who Peter Parker’s current girlfriend was, I’d have gone through the old favorites, pondered about him getting together with Anna Maria (which would infuriate Doc Robock), and finally said… “umm, is he dating anyone?”

    What a terrible job by Slott. What a terrible ‘twist’. I’ve liked (mostly) this current run, but there’s clearly too many plates in the air right now for Slott to effectively tell this story, because AFTER reading the story, I still don’t know his (ex)girlfriend’s name. Or care. Because all of this feels temporary because it’s so clearly something Parker isn’t good at and SLott isn’t very good at writing.

    Very disappointing.

    Seriously, have they had dinner or kissed or done anything that resembled dating? Maybe that’s the point, his life is too busy for a normal relationship (obviously, since she’s a spy and evil).

    This reveal made me realize how empty I’ve felt about this arc. Don’t even get me started on how I read the last page and kept turning it trying to find out how the story really ended. I didn’t believe THAT was the conclusion to the 8 issue first arc of the new and improved Spider-Man.

    Damn, I’m really down on this. I hope Spidey gets better or I’m going to start sounding like Matt talking about Waid.

    • You own Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2? What horrible thing did you do to deserve that fate?

      It is honestly sad how the Spiderman movies have just been getting worse and worse. The first one is fantastic, utterly amazing. The second one is also great, but its need to make the subtext explicit really hurts it as Peter’s fluctuating powers is unexplained and more importantly undercuts the human drama by making things too convenient (it is much easier to stop being Spiderman when you literally don’t have powers). I haven’t actually fully watched Spiderman 3, as when I recorded it, the weather was so bad that it was almost unwatchable. But despite the bad reputation, there were a couple of scenes that were truly extraordinary movie making (despite the bad CG, the creation of the Sandman is amazing), and what little I watched had a pulse. Amazing Spiderman was dead on arrival. It lacked heart, a pulse and any sign on life, for banal repetition in the most generic version possible. And then it truly kills everything that make Peter Parker such a great character, and instead makes him a sociopath. Amazing Spiderman created a Peter Parker built on the ideal of never taking any form of responsibility! It is hard to think how the Spiderman movies could get worse, until you see Amazing Spiderman 2. Amzing Spiderman 2 builds on the sociopathic Peter Parker of Amazing Spiderman 1, and creates something incoherent and even more hateful. And the sad thing was, until Sony got shamed into returning Spiderman to Marvel, it was only going to get worse (unless anyone here really thinks an Aunt May prequel would fix the Spiderman movies. I wish I was kidding, but that was an actual plan). I only hope that notw that Marvel have Spiderman again, they can fix this.

      On Slott, my feelings on him have always been that I like his ideas and his ambition, but when it comes to execution, it never feels right. That no matter how much that, say, the Aldreds push him, he can’t help but make his own great ideas feel more generic than they should be. He seems to have a really problem in selling his own great ideas when he writes the actual script, which is a real shame.

      Honestly, in some ways he is similar to Waid. I don’t think Waid is a terrible writer. But both Waid and Slott’s work just feel distinctly ordinary. They aren’t bad, they just aren’t good. Slott is usually more ambitious, as outside of Daredevil Waid’s are often safe and generic. But both Waid and SLott’s issue have been that their comics never exceed the level of ‘good enough’. The only reason I’ve been so harsh on Waid lately is that the one two punch of All New All Different Avengers and Archie #4. That stuff isn’t Waid’s usual genericness. That was actually bad stuff. Just like how Slott does something actually bad and forgets to establish that Peter actually has a girlfriend. But yeah, generally both writers are good enough.

  2. Batman and Robin Eternal: I would bet that the original version of Batman and Robin Eternal had this satellite destroyed in the end. But I wouldn’t be surprised if things have changed with Rebirth (I have a comment coming on what a mistake it is to have Dick return to Nightwing, but I’ll wait for an issue of Grayson to post it. I just hope that they keep the status quo, and are just returning to the ‘iconic’ name and costume.)

    Still, on the comic itself. This wasn’t what I hoped for Seeley’s return, considering how great his start was. It is certainly a step up, with all of Seeley’s strengths on display. But felt like it could have been better. Still, I loved the distinctive voices that Seeley gave, and he had some fun using the far gas, especially with Red Robin. Still, I think it is a good sign that after a bad middle, Batman and Robin Eternal is going to have a much stronger ending as the good writers return. Seeley made this two part section great fun while grounding it in the characters. And we are about to have Orlando and Valentine return to do the same.

    Power Fist and Iron Man: Ah, wives. The bane of any buddy story. Ever since Watson got married, writers have struggled with the fact they just want Sherlock and Watson doing what they always did!

    Power Fist and Iron Man managed to get that buddy story perfectly. Their chemistry is perfect, and I enjoyed seeing them together. I love how it uses all the aspects of each of their lives, especially Luke Cage as a father. This is a good buddy relationship, and looks to be an entertaining comic, and one I will enjoy every month.

    But I have to say, I wish Jessica was done better. Jessica Jones has always had the problem that after Alias ended, Bendis wanted her to still be part of the Marvel Universe, and yet he was writing Avengers comics, which left Jessica positioned as only Luke Cage’s wife. But there is nothing stopping this comic from treating Jessica as a character in more ways than just ‘wife’.

    For a start, why not have Jessica mention that since she’s stopped swearing, Luke has to stop swearing as well? Same joke, but actually acknowledges Jessica’s character (I mean, if there was one person in that relationship that was most likely to swear, it would be Jessica). It is sad that whenever Jessica appeared, she wasn’t given the chance to be anything other than Luke’s wife with the baby. And that’s a real shame, as by simply defining her as a character, you not only have a better character, ti will actually improve Luke and Danny’s relationship, as it enriches all the relationships.

    BBC’s Sherlock is a fantastic example of fixing this issue. Mary is a character with her own character, opinions etc. She doesn’t get in the way of the Sherlock/Watson main story, nor is she being forced into the third lead position (and I’m not saying Jessica has to be a lead character). Mary is always there as a side character, but the fact that she’s an actual character did so much to develop and do interesting things with the core Sherlock/Watson relationship, By being an actual person, Sherlock became a better show than it would with ‘generic wife’, without losing the key buddy relationship that the show is about.

    I guess my problem with this is two fold. Firstly, Jessica Jones deserves better. And secondly, there is an actual opportunity to fix this recurring problem in these sorts of stories, and create a better book because of it. Between Danny’s discussions, Jessica’s call and the swearing, Luke Cage being a married man is a key part of the story dynamics. So why not take advantage of that?

    Still, that aside, the comic is great fun, and I’m looking forward to more

    Silver Surfer: Wouldn’t a giant Thing have been much more interesting than what we actually got? I liked the idea of Earth being attacked by a giant Thing.

    And this comic was disappointing. Did meeting Alicia Masters actually do anything? I understand that the point of the story is to get ‘the meeting with the ex’ but would it be that hard to tell a story that meant that the meeting had some sort of actual meaning on the plot. Hell, what would have been interesting is if Norrin, stir crazy, took Dawn to New York to show her some of the sites, only to bump into Alicia because Norrin takes Dawn to a place that he went often with Alicia. The art of this is magical, but I’ve given Silver Surfer enough of a try, I think. Kirby Doctor Who by Alldred should be straight up my alley, but I’ll get my Doctor Who from Doctor Who (which is currently better than ever, thank you Peter Capaldi), my Alldred from iZombie’s title cards and amazing openng credits and my Kirby from my big book of Marvel Comic Covers

    Spiderwoman: Between the finale of Secret Wars, and the latest Omega Men (and possibly Batman 49, that is really growing on me), we have had some great issues that deserve to be on our end of year lists for best issue. This issue of Spiderwoman probably won’t be on that list, but I think it deserves to be on the list of best moment of the year, for the birth.

    It could have been a cliche. In so many ways, it could have been a cliche. The idea of giving birth during a crisis is not an original idea. But the execution is divine. You guys already discussed the pacing of the scene itself, but the pacing of the scene in context with the rest of the issue is also worth praising. In fact, to me, that was what true makes the moment sing.

    The door is being smashed down, time is running out, and Jessica is giving birth. Tension is high, everyone is panicking and then something magical happens. All of a sudden, time slows down. Everything else goes silent and all there is is Jessica and her baby. In fact, she is alone with her baby. No one else is there. It is close, intimate and beautiful. And then everything goes to chaos again because there are still an army of Skrulls trying to break down the door.

    But that’s the important thing. When her baby is born, the moment itself is magic. Despite everything happening around it. Despite the horrible situation, despite the chaos, despite the fact that it isn’t going according to plan and Carol isn’t there; Jessica with her baby in her hands is the greatest moment of her life. Nothing else matters except the beauty of that moment. And isn’t that what the moment should be?

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